All of us feel lonely sometimes. That's natural. There are certain times in our lives when we are more susceptible to feelings of loneliness than others. We may feel lonely after the birth of a child, the death of a spouse or the loss of a friend. We feel lonely when we lack connection with those important to us. That can happen when we're alone or even when we're together with someone else.

The importance of connection

When we feel connected to someone, we trust that person with our most important feelings. We feel comfortable sharing our hopes, dreams and problems. According to an article published in Psychology Today, titled Connect to Thrive,_ "low social connection has been associated with declines in physical and psychological health" while social connectedness "generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being." We all need to feel loved.

What can you do when you feel lonely?

1. Reach out to those important to you

Call family members or grow a new circle of friends. Associate with people who are both younger and older than you are - it will give your life depth. Don't wait for others to reach out to you. Make the first move. Find people who will listen to you and care about how you feel, and then do the same thing for them. We all need to feel safe and supported.

2. Do things that are life-affirming

Apathy is your enemy. Remain engaged and optimistic. Cultivate a new passion. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or mentor others who can benefit from your experience. Doing something for someone else gets your mind off of you.

3. Take care of your health

We've all heard it over and over: eat right, get eight hours of sleep, exercise daily. It may sound like an old saw, but it works. Exercise not only improves our physical well-being, it releases endorphins and lifts our spirits.

4. Be part of a community

The movie, Happy, shows people all around the world who are some of the happiest people on earth. They're happy because they live in communities where they feel connected to and watch out for others. If that doesn't describe your neighborhood, try finding a close-knit community of faith or people who share the same interests you do.

5. Cultivate a sense of meaning in your life

Believe in something out there that is bigger than you are. Develop your spirituality. Find faith.

Loneliness and being alone is not the same thing

Loneliness happens when you're unhappy about being alone. Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling that may provoke anxiety or depression. Alone time, on the other hand, can be a time for relaxation, contemplation or trying something new. Remember that connecting with yourself is just as important as connecting with others.

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